Drug abuse in Kerala on the rise after phased prohibition

Trivandrum - The number of drug cases registered by the police went up from about 1,000 in 2013-14 to 2,233 in 2014-15 fiscal.

By T K Devasia

Published: Wed 19 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 19 Aug 2015, 2:00 AM

Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala's disclosure regarding a three-fold increase in drug consumption following introduction of the government's phased prohibition policy has not surprised anybody in the southern Indian state.
The steady increase in cases related to Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in the wake of the closure of over 700 liquor bars and 40 retail outlets since October last year indicates that the regular boozers have shifted to drugs and illicit spirit.
The number of drug cases registered by the police under the Act went up from about 1,000 in 2013-14 when all 783 bars and 384 retail outlets remained open to 2,233 in 2014-15 fiscal when 762 bars below the five-star category and 39 retail outlets were shut down under the new liquor policy.
According to the Excise Department statistics, the number of cases reported in the first three months of the 2015-16 fiscal has reached the 2013 level. State Excise Minister K Babu said that the government had noticed a marked increase in the use of ganja and various types of drugs.
What worries the government most is the penetration of the global drug mafia, who have sensed enormous opportunity in the government's new liquor policy, into the state. State Director General of Prosecutions TA Asif Ali told the high court that the mafia had started focusing on the state after the closure of the bars.
The arrest of a Nigerian youth in connection with the seizure of cocaine from a group of celebrities, including an actor at Cochin, and the recent seizure of 14kg of ephedrine valued at Rs220 million in the global market from a South African woman at the Kochi international airport add credence to Ali's statement.
This is not an isolated incident. Last year 50kgs of the same narcotic substance was seized from two other foreign women at Cochin and Trivandrum airports. Police also suspect that the Iranian fishing boat equipped with satellite phone seized from high seas off Cochin last month also has links to the drug mafia.
A senior police officer said drugs were now flowing into the state from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, West Asia, Horn of Africa, and even Central America. Maoist-infested areas in Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have also lately become major sources of supply of drugs, mostly cannabis, to the state.
The business is poised to flourish as the government will be shutting down another 10 per cent retail outlets in October as part of the liquor policy. Large queues were seen in front of the outlets when 783 bars and 39 retail outlets were closed last year. Police officers fear that more people might turn to drug when another 34 of the remaining 345 retail outlets will be shut down this year. What will be the scene after all the outlets will be closed by 2024 is anybody's guess.
P Vijayan, Deputy Director-General of Police (Intelligence) said the drug mafia was trying to hook children into drugs. There is a deliberate attempt by the drug cartels to lure the teens by initiating the children into gateway drugs like tobacco, inhalants and psychotropic drugs. This is part of their attempt to create a dedicated clientele.
Vijayan told the Khaleej Times that the state government was trying to counter these through sustained campaign against drugs in schools and college campuses. The 'clean campus safe campus' drive launched by the government seeks to educate the children about the harmful effects of drugs and its repercussions.
Under this programme, police conducted 39,700 raids and arrested 10,103 persons. The government has also launched another major campaign called "Subodham" to help people overcome alcohol, drug and other substance abuse.

More news from